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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 14:23 GMT
Home alone v Crowded house

It's hard to imagine what Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke and Are You Being Served? star John Inman have in common, except that both choose to live alone.

Almost one in three British houses have only one occupant, according to a new figures from the Family Policy Studies Centre.

This number of one-person households has risen steadily since the 1960s, when only 11% of houses were single occupancy.

Despite this marked trend, there seems to remain a certain stigma to living alone.

"Lives alone" is one of the loaded phrases beloved of magazine interviewers and newspaper hacks alike.

In celebrity profiles it is often used to denote a troubled personal life. For the Joe Publics who end up in the news, it is shorthand for "brooding psychopath".

With some 6.5 million Britons coming home to an empty house each night, surely there must be some benefits to a solitary life?

Sally Lines, 34, has lived alone for six months and says the experience has not been "depressing".

Rory Mulholland, 35, says sharing his house with two other people is a "very positive thing".

Company - Human beings aren't designed to live alone. People thinks it's great but it can limit you. It's a bit insular and if you don't go out and mix with people you can start to retreat from humanity. Company - Living with other people is great for having someone to talk to. It can become a bit too much if you live with friends. If you go out together all the time and have the same friends people start to think of you collectively rather than as an individual.
Freedom - Living alone encourages you to slovenliness. You become lazy and it encourages you to become selfish. As long as you make clear rules it's a good thing to live with others. What's wrong with compromise and tolerance? Freedom - There are many shared responsibilities, like the washing up. You don't leave your dishes for a week, because you wouldn't like it if everybody else left theirs.
Space - You have all the privacy you want, but even in a shared house you have your own space. No one is going to come bursting into your bedroom, are they? Space - It can be a little difficult if you invite someone over for dinner and you don't want your housemates there. You especially don't want a little romantic dinner interrupted.
Expense - As they say: "Two can live as cheaply as one." There are other costs to living alone, all that land being taken up by extra houses. I'm moving to a larger place so I have a room to rent out. Expense - The more people you have, the nicer place you can get. Splitting the bills is no problem, most are equally divided and even phone bills are itemised.
Stigma - There's only a stigma if you act as if you're ashamed of living alone. If you don't appear to be on the defensive about it, people won't think it's strange. In London anything goes, maybe elsewhere it might prompt some gossip. Stigma - The older you get, the more people begin to feel strange about living in a shared house, it's as if you're refusing to grow up. In the UK, the stigma is minimal. In France shared houses are very uncommon. If you live in one at 25 or 30 everyone thinks you're weird or a hippie.

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